The Frenchman Lilian Calmejane overcame cramp to acquire theatre eight of the Tour de France as Chris Froome lived a brief off-road excursion to retain his yellow jersey
This Tour will see the end of an epoch when the French housewives favourite Thomas Voeckler hangs up his rotates at persons below the age of 38 after a 17 -year-career. His heir appears to be with us: on the evidence of his young team-mate Lilian Calmejanes incisive, intrepid solo theatre acquire here to take over the King of the Mountains jersey with Chris Froome be retained in yellow the sequence is assured. Le Voeckler de demain, said his squads founder, the former professional Jean-Ren Bernaudeau, once the hugs of enthrall were over.
As well as verve, Voeckler has always displayed a entertainers ability to play up to the audience, and Calmejane seems to have learned from the hero of his teenage cycling years. When the television cameras came up close as he approached the finish, he had already effected conniptions among the commentators when he was forced to draw out briefly with convulsion on the final bit slope, and he followed this up by lodging his tongue out as if he was attempting to poke the remains of an force gel off his top tubing. It will figure huge in video roundups of the race.
There is plenty of substance to Calmejane as well, however. The 24 -year-old from Albi is in only his second time as health professionals but have so far been oversaw a stagecoach victory in the Vuelta a Espaa at the end of 2016, and this year has taken three second-tier theatre races: the toile de Bessges, the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali and the Circuit de la Sarthe.
In a frenetic centre section to the stage, he bided as tranquil as his refer might propose. While his fellow Frenchman Warren Barguil burned himself out by action the gait for kilometre after kilometre, he bided his time before the second-category Cte de Viry, before springing clinically across to a small lead radical that had forced its acces clear of an immense escape of some 50 equestrians more than a part of the whole subject but without ever opening a deciding gap.
Calmejane made a second, critical attack on the final ascending, the Monte de la Combe de Laisia Les Molunes, which was as tortuous as it sounds. After a nine-rider leading radical had been whittled down to four Robert Gesink, Nicolas Roche, and Serge Pauwels being the others he again waited patiently, then suddenly sprinted into a angle just before the road knocked steeply up. Roche took up the initial pursuit before Gesink took over, but Calmejane had absconded, having completed three much older and far more seasoned activists. That too bodes well for his future.
Victories such as this are the lifeblood of the smaller French teams such as Direct Energie, which has existed under various flags Bonjour, Brioches la Boulangre since the turn of the millennium development goals. Bernaudeaus philosophy has always been one of bringing forward French talent rather than buying in wholesale from abroad, and while the near-guarantee of an entry in the Tour brings the sponsors in although often he contends to sign them until the last minute there is immense pressure to perform in the worlds greatest race, against teams with far bigger budgets and many more starrings in their ranks.
Less than a instant behind Calmejane, a 37 -man group included all the race favourites , none of whom put Chris Froome under pressure. Perhaps they are all saving their pulverization dehydrate for Sundays massive mountain day in the south of the Jura. A brief commotion committing Daniel Martin in the final kilometres came to nothing, and ominously for those out to topple Froome, that 37 -man main group included four Team Sky equestrians around the hasten commander. His only precarious time came as Skys times so often do on a drop-off, where Geraint Thomas underestimated a right-hand hairpin and took Froome with him on to the verge; the race manager bided upright, while Thomas punched a hurdle, to no seeming ill-effect.